… Then Don’t Do That

A Glance at the Law of Sowing and Reaping

Henny Youngman told a joke about the guy that goes to the doctor and says “Doctor, it hurts when I do this”, and the Doctor says “then don’t do that”.

“…then don’t do that!”

Who’s more out of touch, the guy over-thinking the problem who doesn’t realize that a simple action will solve his problem, or the doctor who is too simple minded to understand that the problem is more complicated than what he observes at first glance? That joke is kind of funny, but either way it illustrates how easily we can miss the mark sometimes when trying to solve a problem without seeing the bigger picture.

Out of touch

I recall a Saturday Night Live skit called Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford. In this commercial parody, a married couple (Steve Martin, Amy Poehler) are confused by their money woes, so a spokesperson (Chris Parnell) presents them with Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford, a guide to prevent financial debt. [Season 31, 2006].  They tried debt consolidation, taking out loans to cover their debt, the spokesperson came up with a unique new program for managing your debt.  It’s called Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford.  They seem a bit perplexed at the idea that if you don’t have any money you should not buy anything. When you open the cover, the first page just says: Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford.

“Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford.”

We laugh, but we all have silly thoughts like this from time to time. The “then don’t do that” plan is sometimes an overlooked solution for many problems in people’s lives.  Here are a few scenarios that we could benefit from this simple advice:

“Whenever I hang out with this person I get into trouble” – Then don’t do that!

“I always stuff myself and feel miserable when I go to a buffet” – Then don’t do that!

“Even when I scream at my kids they don’t listen to me” – Then don’t do that!

“When I watch too much TV I get depressed”- Then don’t do that!

There are other variations of this principle as well, such as the “Then do it!” response.

“I should take a class to sharpen my skills” – “Then do it!”

“I always feel good when I am regularly getting exercise” “Then do it!”

“I know I should break up with him…” – “Then do it!”

“I need to start saving more money” – “Then do it!”

In other words, stop doing things you know you aren’t suppose to do and get on with doing what you are suppose to be doing! 

Stop talking and take action!

Appitites

As fallen people we are the masters of self-deceit.  We have an agenda of what we want or how we want things to be.  Sometimes our appitites are just more important to us than  our future hopes.  

We are willing to make some changes or even give up things to solve a problem as long as it doesn’t threaten what is most important to us.  We would like life in abundance down the road, instead we choose life on our terms, now.

“We are willing to make some changes or even give up things to solve a problem as long as it doesn’t threaten what is most important to us.”

For example, the couple in the Saturday Night Live skit were willing to consider a program to help them get out of debt, but the idea of not spending money they did not have was too big of a compromise.  They needed another way that doesn’t prohibit there spending freedoms.

Addiction

I have struggled with a food addiction for much of my life and have experienced this first hand.  I am willing to work towards losing weight as long as I can still eat when I am hungry or continue to eat certain foods that are not good for me. I may tell myself I am willing but then I prove myself wrong, (self-deceit).  I find myself compromising because I am not willing to follow the “then don’t do that!” advice. And somehow I wonder why I struggle to get to my ideal weight. Whenever I have had success it was because an outside source (like my doctor) helped me see what my future will look like if I don’t change my habits. Sometimes that not even enough.  I need to own the results for the future, now.

It’s amazing how many weight loss programs there are out there. It is a much bigger industry then it really should be.  They rely on people not having the discipline to follow the simple “then don’t do that” plan.  

Everyone is looking for the magic pill to come out that will enable them to lose weight without going through the motions of exercising and eating right.  We all know this, yet we continue our search for the miracle cure.  

I want to write a one page book and title it 2 Simple Steps to Losing Weight.  When you turn the page it says, 1. Exercise every day for 20 minutes 2. Eat only healthy food in moderation. That’s it. Don’t over think it. Don’t look for a pill or special herbs or a machine that tilts and turns and vibrates.  Just decide if that is what you want, then do those two things.

The dreaded “but” statement.

Whenever we get a slight glimpse of a clear honest assessment of how we should proceed we turn right around and tell ourselves a lie that negates our good thought.  Our “I should…” or “I shouldn’t…”statements too often are followed by the dreaded “but” statement.

“I know I should go to the gym today… but, I have too much to do today”

“I know I should get up and do something today… but, I’m too tired”

“I know I shouldn’t have that pie… but, it’s sooo good”

“I know I shouldn’t let him treat me that way… but, I love him.”

Most of the time when we compromise how we spend our time it is because we choose the certain benefits of now, over the uncertain benefits of later.

“Enjoy life. Think of all the women who passed up dessert on the Titanic.”

The message of instant gratification has been pounded into our brain by commercialism and industry. It has become a very steep uphill battle for potential consumers to choose future benefits over the comfort of the here and now.  We indulge in things we know will harm us and do it with little conviction or thought of cause and effect.

“When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.”― Marilyn Manson (a man of many granted wishes and destroyed dreams)

Sowing and Reaping

In the natural world the law of cause and effect tells us that for every cause or action there is an effect that is triggered.  For every effect there was something that caused it.  Things don’t just happen randomly or get that way for no reason.  If we define reality simply as “the way things really are”, we can conclude everything got that way because of all of the things that have happened up to this point to cause it to be that way.

Another variation of the law of cause and effect is the law of sowing and reaping.  While the law of cause and effect deals with all of reality, the law of sowing and reaping hones in on our intentions, and how our decisions effect future outcomes.

Consequences

The law of sowing and reaping says that when we do something or don’t do something there is a consequence that follows.  If you decide to purchase a new I-Phone 15 on a credit card to pay later, YOU REALLY HAVE TO PAY LATER.  If you don’t you may face financial or legal penalties that make that purchase much more costly than the original purchase.  

The law of sowing and reaping effects every decision we make and is unbiased.  It doesn’t care about our intentions, our track record or what other people think.  It is an unmovable force that either works for us or against us, depending on if we adhere to the law of cause and affect, or call its bluff.

Wisdom of vision

The wisest people in the world seem to have something in common.  They see the future and the present at the same time.  It’s like they have a portal into the future and can see how their current decisions will affect their future circumstances. They somehow have been able to harness a clear image of what delayed gratification will bring them.  l know it’s not entirely accurate or true with all wise people.  You can’t deny that when you hear a story of someone who has reached extraordinary levels of success, it’s evident  how their early decisions directly determined their growth that led to their inevitable success.  They may not have always known what they would reap from their hard work and careful choices, but they knew they were working toward something big. They also put guardrails in place to keep them safe until they get there.

“Success is a planned outcome, not an accident. Success and mediocrity are both absolutely predictable because they follow the natural and immutable law of sowing and reaping. Simply stated, if you want to reap more rewards, you must sow more service, contribution, and value. That is the no-nonsense formula. Some of God’s blessings have prerequisites! Success in life is not based on need but on seed. So you’ve got to become good at either planting in the springtime or begging in the fall.”

― Tommy Newberry, Success Is Not an Accident

“We never plan to mess up our l ives, but unfortunately, we never plan not to. When making decisions, we should always ask ourselves, In light of my past experiences, my current circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?” ― Andy Stanley –The Best Question Ever

I believe that an honest glimpse into the future would be worth more than gold.  I wonder how different we would make decisions if we could look ahead and see the outcome of our decisions at the same time we make them.  That will never be entirely possible, however, the law of cause and effect should point us in the right direction and help us realize the future is much more predictable than we think, if we just look ahead so we can get rid of the “but”.

Your Many Blunders Can Raise Your Credibility

I know, it makes no sense, hang with me.  Think about a two or three people you know that have very low credibility in your eyes or in the eyes of others who know them. Let’s call this group A.  I am sure you can think of many blunders or at least one big blunder that led you to dislike them or at least question their credibility.  Chances are they have made some poor choices over time and done some things to damage people’s perception of them.  

Now think of a few people you do trust, who are generally held in high esteem by most, including yourself.  You trust these people and believe in their ability to do the right thing based on their reputation and your experience with them.  Let’s call this group B.  You may conclude that the difference between these groups would be the number and seriousness of blunders accumulated over time.  After all, we are probably tempted to point out fault with the people in group A more quickly, aren’t we? Let’s put that on hold for a minute.

Credit

In the financial world, the word “credit” is used to refer to how reliable someone is to be trusted to pay back a loan or debt. When a person makes purchases that they are not able to pay for or take responsibility for, their credit rating goes down based on a complicated formula that smart people came up with.  

In the legal world, a “credible” witness is someone who can be counted on to tell the truth under oath.  A credible witness has a history of telling the truth. The opposing attorney will often try to “discredit” the witness in order to show they cannot be trusted with responsible testimony.

We all fall short

One thing that both groups A and B have in common that I believe goes largely overlooked is that all of the people have unquestionably lived a life of many blunders and mistakes.  They all have made many foolish choices that have hurt others. We all have. No doubt some people are less responsible than others, but we have all fallen short no matter what group we fall into.  

Why is it that we tend to remember the blunders coming from the people in group A more easily than group B?

Trust

I am not a genius when it comes to banking and finances, but I know that advisors will tell you that it is good to use a credit card verses cash if you wish to build up credit (assuming you can pay if off as you go).  I think the idea is to build up a track record of being responsible with a debt you owe.  The more you borrow and pay back the more others will be willing to loan to you.  You are building trust and credibility.

Now let’s take a deeper look into group A.  If their credibility is low, chances are it has taken a hit because of their history of not being responsible for outstanding debts(wrong doing) they have acquired or because of their blunders that go unclaimed.  

Some people view mistakes or blunders as horrible acts or events that define them and make a statement about their personal worth or value.  When their mistake is pinned on them they take it very personally and their self-esteem takes a hit. They will do most anything to avoid it. 

Others, like those in group B, when they make a mistake, look at it as a learning experience and consider them necessary bumps along the road to success and growth.

We have a choice

When we make a mistake (selfish or unselfish), we have a choice of what we are going to do with that mistake.  A person in group A may tend to choose to deny responsibility, blame someone else, or run away because of their fear, or distorted perspective on what blame says about them.  

A person from group B may worry very little about what blame says about them and be quick to accept responsibility for their blunder. They realize that everyone makes mistakes and it is unrealistic to expect otherwise. When they make a mistake it puts an extra burden on someone else. They know they need to take full responsibility for their mistake because they owe it to others they have hurt.  They understand grace normally accompanies confessing fault and they understand that any relationship, if expected to be strong, will occasionally require reconciliation (a topic for another time).  

The person who runs from blame values their own “blamelessness” over relational honesty. They tend to have a wounded heart that needs to heal before they can accept responsibility for their mistakes.

The person who runs from blame values their own “blamelessness” over relational honesty.

Own it

Two of the most powerful statements any person can make are “It’s my fault” and “I am sorry”.  These are the responsible way of saying I owe it to you to make up for my mistake and I own it.  They are the words that lead to credibility.  They are music to people’s ears when they may otherwise hold a grudge if they don’t hear these words. It’s much more difficult to forgive a person who doesn’t fess up.

Much like a person who borrows and can be trusted to pay back their debt time after time is a person who can be trusted to take responsibility for their mistakes and blunders even when it happens time after time. The more blunders you take responsibility for, the more credibility you will gain. 

You will never know the depth of how much you can trust someone until you see how they handle it after they have hurt someone.

Some people are defined by their mistakes in their own eyes, but it is how they respond to their mistakes that will define them in everyone else’s eyes.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also referred to as the 80/20 Principle, relates to virtually all areas of life and tends to be a fairly reliable explanation for distribution of resources and success. It explains how 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.  It also explains how 80% of your problems come from 20% of your decisions.

The original idea came from a mathematical observation by a man named Pareto that 80% of Italy’s income was generated by 20% of the population.  Since then, many people have made their own applications of this principle in most every area of life in an attempt to understand and explain a natural curve that is generated by the vast variety of people. It explains how their disposition and approach towards life leads to predictable outcomes.

The Pareto Principle is very valuable to understand because when we look at the world through our natural lenses, we tend to look at the world as being flat and fair.  We think that as long as we sow hard we will reap hard and as long as we keep busy we won’t have any effort unnoticed or unrewarded.  We think that everyone who works hard should be equally rewarded for their equal efforts.

That would be great if it were so, but the truth is that very few of the efforts we make actually move the success needle as much as we tend to think.  We all have likely experienced some success in our lives that stem from great ideas, hard work or creative thought.  These successful endeavors likely came about through just a handful of talents, habits or skills that you possess.

We like to think that we are decent at a lot of different things.  We can do many things fairly well and have a pretty broad understanding of the world.  That is rubbish.  The truth is that we are all only really good at three to five things.  That’s it.  We do many more things outside of these three to five things, but most of our success you can attribute to the time and efforts that come from these key areas of strength.  These are your core competencies.  You should pay very close attention to these core competencies and put a hedge around them to make sure they are not squeezed out of your life or schedule by your lesser skills and efforts.

“The truth is that we are all only really good at three to five things.  That’s it”

Some people go through their entire life and really never get a good understanding of our core competencies. The success we have had we attribute to our collective knowledge and all the different skills we have picked up over the years.  We take great pride in being “well rounded”. We know we are better at some things but what we don’t realize is how many things we think we are decent at that don’t add any real value to the overall project, not to mention sometimes even taking away from the success of the project without even knowing.  Until we fully understand our core competencies and leverage them,  we will continue to be on the wrong end of the Pareto Principle.

This Blog is dedicated to helping people identify the three areas that their efforts fall into based on the Pareto Principle.

  • Competency Zone – The time, efforts, and skills used that contribute to the majority of your successful results from using your unique gifts and core competenscies. These are the 20% of your efforts that lead to 80% of your results.
  • Mediocrity Zone – The time, efforts and skills we often believe contribute to success, but really add very little if any value to the project. These are the efforts we make that keep us afloat at best. They often are necessary but should never be counted on to bring home the gold medal. These are the 60% of your efforts that contribute some to the solutions (20%) and some to the problem (20%)
  • Futile Zone – The time you waste when you should be doing more important things, the efforts you make in vain, and the skills you pretend you have that only make things worse. These are the 20% of your efforts that lead to 80% of your problems. Stop it!

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This blog is dedicated to helping people view the world through the lense of the Pareto Principle.  I hope you like it.  Please let me know what you think so I can continue to grow.